In the last few months I’ve done a lot of self-reflection and a lot of visualization for what I want for myself in the future. A common theme in this journey of self discovery has been compatibility in loving. I think I have been very fortunate in my life that I truly know what it feels like to be, and most importantly, feel loved. My mother died when I was eleven years old, but in those eleven years I know what it feels like to be loved and to love someone properly. And even though my father and I don’t have an ideal relationship at the moment, I feel in my heart that he loves me. So in my adult life, I have sought that same feeling in relationships. In whatever naive young adult way I may have gone about trying to obtain that feeling, I instinctively will know when it is right.
Now, I am not still so naive as to think that love is enough, I know all too well that more goes into sustaining a long-term relationship than just love alone. And I also now know the difference between puppy love, butterflies, and real love. It is an amazing ah ha moment when you first learn the difference between them. But even now at thir…..er eh….. a little older, I’ve found that there is yet another layer to loving and being loved. Knowing how to love someone in a way they can receive and accept it, and being able to receive the love someone offers to you is critically important.
This now brings me to my latest life lesson. I never considered what it would be like to be in a relationship with someone who is an agnostic, possibly even a closet atheist. Althougth I have some issues with organized religion but still recognize a higher being. I grew up in Baptist and non-denominational churches, and as an adult I enjoy going to service, and I am always able to walk away feeling uplifted and joyous. Yet, I also recognize and appreciate other forms of religion because I know that had I been born in another part of the world that I may not have grown up a Christian. I appreciate that religion is just a method of praising a higher being, whatever we choose to call ‘him’.
I do not believe all our power comes from within ourselves and our own strength. We have no real power or strength alone. God, or whatever we choose to call our supreme being is a part of us all. We are inherently limited in strength of might(by the hand), and intellect (of the brain), but God that resides in our heart is limited by nothing. If we seek him and acknowledge his presence and power in our lives we can do all things. I’ll get off my soapbox now that I’ve made my point.
The problem I found being involved in a relationship with an agnostic is that I felt I was asked to do things that he was not willing to do: 1. Have an open mind. Having never met an agnostic before(at least not knowingly) I did have an open mind, and that is partly why I didn’t go running for the hills when I realized he was an agnostic. I had an open mind, because I had not yet formed an opinion. And even now, I reserve my opinion for a case by case basis.
Now that I do have some experience, and have done some research, I think that many agnostics think that they are much smarter than believers. They think we are all blind followers and we don’t think for ourselves. When in actuality most of the religious texts encourage believers to question His supreme existence. We question and still believe and accept that it may take a lifetime to get all the answers one seeks, but at the very least it will take some searching. Maybe some of us have to look for God a little harder than the rest or have to work harder at relationships with God than the rest of us, but I do not think that is an excuse enough not to try. Maybe after searching and working on the relationship you decide that it’s not a relationship that you want to have right now. You don’t know under what parameters/boundaries you want to have it, then that’s another story. At least in that instance you still acknowledge His existence.
Generally speaking all of us believers could call ourselves agnostics. We don’t know for sure, or at least can’t provide any physical evidence of a supreme being to anyone who asks. The only difference is that we believe anyway. There may not be conventional logic for the basis of our beliefs and yet we believe still. It doesn’t mean that we do not question why things are the way they are, or why would a supreme being allow such strife to take place in the world. We just acknowledge that there are things that we do not know or that cannot be explained in human terms. There should be another word for agnostics, or people who just are not able to believe at this juncture or any juncture in their lives, or people who are unwilling to accept the fact that ‘not knowing’ is a part of knowing.
To be very honest I was a little afraid in the beginning that being with an agnostic would make me less of a believer. The bible says people in relationships should be “equally yoked” fearing that the lesser of the yoked would confuse or change the other’s path (2Corinthians 6:14). But quite the contrary has happened. I feel like I have become even more of a believer. I can’t comprehend not believing in something greater than myself. And most importantly I can’t not feel God’s presence in my life. I could be wrong about a lot of things, including what to call my own form of spirituality, but I am not wrong about the reality of His presence.
2. I felt like I was being expected to love someone in a way who was unable to love me back in a similar way. I know that everyone loves people differently, but I think that there is a reoccurring commonality between true believers. For example, let’s examine the phrase, “people should only do what they feel like doing”. I can’t really stand behind that 100% because that removes all levels of responsibility and obligation from an individual. I don’t think you should have to do anything that you feel strongly against. And I don’t think you should have to do anything that would really put you out (emotionally, physically, financially) so that you are left feeling terribly uncomfortable and which may cause resentment to build within you. And if one person feels that way, then it’s just better to end that relationship then to start tearing each other apart. Because as a believer, I do feel an obligation to behave in a certain way toward people, especially those I claim to love, that is reflective of the love I feel for God.
I think that when you love someone as God loves us that you do things for that person because you know that in doing so it just is love. And you do it without making them feel bad, and you do it with a smile. Under any other circumstances the love is not conveyed and the act itself is pointless. But if someone doesn’t feel God loving them in such a way, then how can they even attempt to love someone else that way? Or even realize that they are being loved in that way?
I’ve always felt that you don’t really know someone until you’ve traveled with them and gotten into a fight with them. Both of these are stressful situations and if neither of these go well the first time, you should consider that a huge red flag! DO NOT IGNORE THIS RED FLAG!
Choosing to love someone comes with responsibility and obligation and our belief system strongly affects the level of each. For anyone who grew up in Sunday school like I did (my grandfather was the Deacon of Sunday School so I was in all the events/plays/recitals, you name it!) you know that from practically infancy they taught us about God’s love and how we should treat one another. And no matter how long its been since you last picked up a bible or attended a service, you can probably recall a verse or bible story about love and how God says we should treat one another. It becomes a part of your DNA. I truly believe that true believers are only able to fight but so dirty. There is something deep down inside of you that will only let you go but so far. You know that there is a limit/a line/a threshold that you just don’t cross. It’s not as if you don’t think about it, or even threaten to go there. But you just don’t do it. You remember who you are a son or daughter of, and then you get yourself together.
I don’t think that agnostics or atheists have that self-imposed limitation. It seems like all gloves are off and each man is for himself. Now that person might be nice to have around when you two are on the same side of the argument. But what if you find yourselves on opposing sides? How can you ever be comfortable with someone when you know that if *ish hits the fans you have a handicap and they do not? It’s one thing to say,” Well if they can dish it, then they can take it! So I’m not going to hold back if they aren’t!” I don’t know about you, but personally I refuse to allow someone to have me ”forget where I came from”(as old people say).
So, how will I love thee….? I will love my family, friends, neighbors, and lover with a mature and compassionate heart. I will protect you fiercely and fight fairly. Don’t take my kindness for weakness, because although I won’t fight dirty, I will not let you run over me in the name of love. And if you try it, you will just have to love me from afar. Ashe! Ashe! Ashe! ( pronounced ” ahshay” ;Swahili for we are in agreement)